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Do It For Less: Halloween

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Have fun without the scary spending

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It's easy to spend $35 to $90 on a Halloween costume for your child and a snap to drop another $100 on a party. But you don't have to.

Rule of thumb: the more you and your kids do together in designing and putting together the costumes, the more memorable Halloween will be for everyone – and you'll save money.

Many kids want to dress up as the superhero of the moment – Batman, Spiderman, Hell Boy or a refugee from the "Princess Diaries." Tell your child it's easy to stand out from the hordes of spooky creatures their friends will become by developing a costume from household or thrift shop materials.

Imagine life without nerds – no Intel (INTC), Apple (AAPL), Cisco Systems (CSCO) or Microsoft (MSFT). Scary – sounds like a world populated by folks who couldn't imagine a world beyond network TV.

To make your kid nerd for a day, all you need is a rumpled white shirt (coffee, soy sauce or food stains optional), baggy pants, an oversized belt (be sure to miss at least one belt loop and twist it before buckling), one white dress sock and one inside-out white gym sock, scuffed black shoes with mis-matched laces, maybe an old necktie and a pocket protector stuffed with cheap ballpoint pens. Many of these items can be picked up at a thrift store for next to nothing. Use the shopping trip to teach your child about money.

You can make your child into a super-nerd by adding plastic horn-rimmed glasses. For best results, wrap adhesive tape around the bridge so it looks like the glasses were broken by walking into a lamp post while thinking deep thoughts.

Or, make your child into a mummy by tearing an old sheet into long, thin strips. Here's betting your kid will love this task. If you have time, stitch the strips together. If not, wrap your kid as tightly as possible, fastening each strip to the underlying sweatshirt and jeans with safety pins. The head will take some time and you may want to think about sewing the strips to a headpiece made from an old pillow case or towel.

If you're planning a Halloween party, use cheap tissue paper to create a variation on this theme. Have one child strike a pose and stand still. Then tell a second child to run around, madly wrapping the kid in paper to create a mummy. Be sure to reverse the roles. You can give prizes for the best time, the tightest wrap, the most breaks – you name it.

A younger child may not be ready for silly costumes and probably will want to stick with the tried and true. A leotard and tights can be the foundation for a cat. Draw the whiskers on your child's cheeks with charcoal or makeup and make the ears out of cardboard or a heavy material such as corduroy.

A little imagination will point you in the right direction for the color. A black leotard and tights can easily be made into a cat, panther, or wolf. White could become a cat, horse, rabbit or unicorn. Brown could become the foundation for a dog, turtle, moth or butterfly – you get the idea. If you need a crown, use the paper crowns passed out a Burger King (BKC) as a pattern.

If your child prefers, yellow, green, red or blue – presto – you've got a giant crayon. Wrap construction paper around your kid's middle and write CRAYON in huge block letters. You can fashion the point out of cardboard and you child can color it as needed to match the rest of the costume.

Nursery rhymes are a good source of ideas, too. You can create the three blind mice with old gym clothes, well-worn baseball caps and plastic sunglasses from a discount store. Wrap a dowel in white paper and you've got a cane. All your kids and maybe some friends need to do next is learn to whistle "Three Blind Mice."

Witches and warlocks are always popular. If you don't have time to stitch a costume from scratch, think about cutting holes for the head and arms and legs in a black plastic trash bag. Tie it at the waist with a piece of ribbon and your child is almost ready. You can make a pointed hat out of black construction paper. Add black pants, shoes and a small broom and your child will cast a spell on the neighbors.

If you're having a party, ask your kids to help you prepare a batch of brains. Boil lots of elbow macaroni and have your kids add food coloring. With a little experimentation, you can turn the macaroni to a delightfully yucky gray – just the thing for hungry ghouls. Toss it in a bowl, pack it as tightly as possible, refrigerate – and Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on you. Olives will do for eyeballs in a pinch.

If vandalism is a problem in your neighborhood, move the Halloween party to the front porch or yard so you can keep an eye on things.

Kids love it when adults do silly things so think about dressing up as a ghost with a pumpkin head. Hollow out a large pumpkin and put on a shower cap before you pull it over your head. Or, cut a pumpkin in two and tape it in place around your head. Then have your partner draw stitches or better yet, a zipper, on the masking tape.

Passing out candy in such an outfit will be great fun for all the kids.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on Halloween because a parent's time and attention is the best treat for any child.

Hey, you could get a big box, remove the bottom, cut head and arm holes, wrap it in holiday paper, add a bow and your child could go trick-or-treating as a present.

You don't have to tell your kid it's filled with love.

One more free idea: Your kids can learn about earning, spending, saving and giving while going on a Halloween Scavenger Hunt in MinyanLand.

Learn How to Make a Cowboy, Witch, Ghost or Pirate Costume in the Howcast channel of MinyanLand's Main Street Theater!
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